Hello from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which officially opened with a Falcons-Arizona Cardinals exhibition game tonight. Please check back here for frequent updates.
10:50 p.m.: Quinn on the stadium
Falcons coach Dan Quinn began his postgame press conference by thanking “the thousands of men and women that really poured a lot of their energy and time and heart into this stadium.”
Quinn said of the stadium: “It’s unbelievable.”
10:07 p.m.: Final score
The Falcons lost 24-14 to the Cardinals in the first game played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“The defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons are not ready for the 2017 season,” D. Orlando Ledbetter writes.
Click here for his story.
The announced attendance was 70,237, which includes all season tickets. The actual attendance wasn’t immediately available.
9:11 p.m.: Crowd update
The crowd has thinned out -- hey, it’s an exhibition game -- but several of the stadium’s coolest spots remain full: the two skybridges overlooking the city behind the east end zone and the large gathering space just inside the Front Porch.
9:01 p.m.: Bradley’s take
AJC columnist Mark Bradley writes: “If you’re wondering who won the Atlanta Stadium Derby of 2017, this untrained architect would say the Falcons.”
Click here to read his column.
8:33 p.m.: Halftime
The Falcons trail the Cardinals 17-3 at halftime of the stadium’s first game.
7:48 p.m.: Fan feedback
The fans’ first impressions of the Falcons’ new home were overwhelmingly positive.
Click here to read their reactions.
7:35 p.m.: Lighting looks good
The stadium looks dramatically brighter than the Georgia Dome did. This can be attributed to the LED sports lighting and, during daylight, the 16-story-high wall of windows behind one end zone. The brightness of the massive halo video board helps, too.
Click here for fan reaction to the lights.
7:06 p.m.: Kickoff, sans pageantry
The stadium’s first game is underway. It kicked off with no grand-opening pomp and pageantry, no speeches by dignitaries.
Those festivities are planned for Sept. 17, when the Falcons play their regular-season home opener against the Green Bay Packers, and Sept. 16, when Atlanta United seeks to fill the building for a game against Orlando City.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other dignitaries are expected to participate in those festivities.
6:30 p.m.: ‘This is beautiful’
You should be glad to know that Walter Banks, the legendary usher and ambassador of Atlanta sports, is on the job at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
His first impressions:
“This is beautiful. I think Atlanta is so lucky and fortunate to get three new stadiums opening at the same time,” he said, referring to SunTrust Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Georgia State Stadium (the former Turner Field).
“It’s just like having some new babies. We’ve got triplets.”
5:55 p.m.: Checking out the building
Slightly more than an hour before kickoff, the biggest assemblages of fans inside the building are on the two skybridges above the east end zone (in front of the window-to-the-city), the field-level patio areas (connected to the premium clubs) and the concourses.
The crowd size will be interesting, because the no-show rate is typically high for NFL exhibition games. Opening a new stadium should mitigate that trend.
Last season, the announced attendance for the Falcons’ two home exhibition games was 65,340 on Aug. 11 vs. the Redskins and 67,385 on Sept. 1 vs. the Jaguars, but those figures were inflated by the inclusion of all season tickets. The actual attendance for those games, according to Georgia Dome gate records, was 43,021 and 38,196, respectively.
4:30 p.m.: Gathering spot fills
Early-arriving fans filled the area that stadium officials call “Times Square,” which is a gathering spot punctuated by video displays, including a 101-foot-tall mega-column wrapped in LED on three sides, behind the east end zone.
The space is at the base of the 16-story-high “window the city” and offers a good view of the field and halo video board.
Fans entered that area from the Front Porch, an outdoor plaza that opened at 4 p.m. The rest of the stadium opens at 5 p.m.
Click here for more on gathering spots around the stadium, including the 100 Yard Club.
3:55 p.m.: Updating the roof
The retractable roof is closed for tonight’s game, as it will be for events in the stadium until mechanization work is completed. Stadium officials have said they expect to be able to open the roof for a Falcons game at some point this season, but they don’t know when.
Roof work is scheduled to resume Sunday, when the plan is to open it to continue adjusting the mechanization.
Then the roof is scheduled to be returned to the closed position days before Thursday’s Falcons-Jaguars exhibition game, the stadium’s second event.
Sunday’s planned move will mark the fifth time the roof has been moved – “Construction Move 5,” stadium officials call it. Rather than in 12 minutes — the time it is ultimately supposed to take to open or close the roof — these moves have required required hours or even days, nowhere near fast enough for decisions based on game-day weather.
So efforts will continue to get the roof automated and up to speed.
Click here for more on the status of the retractable roof.
3:10 p.m.: The backstory
While we wait for the gates to open, let’s start with a (very) condensed summary of how the stadium came to be.
I trace the starting point to September 2006, when Falcons owner Arthur Blank predicted in an interview with the AJC that the Falcons would have a new stadium in a decade or so.
The Georgia Legislature officially got the ball rolling in 2010 by authorizing an extension of Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax to help pay for a new or renovated stadium on the Georgia World Congress Center campus.
Formal negotiations between the Falcons and the GWCCA began in 2011.
Plans gradually evolved from from an open-air stadium to a retractable-roof stadium, from a site about a half-mile north of the Georgia Dome to a site about 80 feet south of the Dome and from the state issuing the bonds for the public portion of the construction cost to the city issuing them.
The deal was approved by the Atlanta City Council in March 2013.
Two churches were purchased and demolished.
Construction work began in early 2014, several months ahead of the “official” groundbreaking in May 2014.
The cost rose from an initial estimate of $1 billion to $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion.
Personal seat licenses, required to purchase Falcons season tickets, stirred much controversy.
The scheduled completion date was pushed back three times because of issues with steel work related to the roof.
There were countless other twists and turns along the way. But today, finally, the stadium opens.
The gates to the Front Porch -- a 61,000-square-foot outdoor fan plaza that is within the ticketed zone -- are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. The full stadium is set open at 5 p.m. Kickoff is 7:06 p.m.
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